Saturday, April 13, 2024

7th Voyage of Sinbad. (1958) Directed by Nathan H. Juran

 Ray Harryhaussen and Charles Schneer were had made several films together before making this fantasy/adventure but this film was in colour and had a higher budget. The studio seemed to think "period films" were a risk at the time and didn’t notice the fantasy elements for some reason. Their fears were unfounded, the 650 000$ budget made them 8 million dollars on release worldwide. 

This is, in my opinion of course, the best of the 3 Sinbad films they made together and one of the best they made throughout their careers. The story isn’t complicated or particularly consistent but it is tons of fun and made to show off Harryhaussen’s stop motion monsters in a way that still looks amazing. It took him 11 months to do the animations by himself and showed the world that fantasy films were bankable and could be done in a way that drew you in and didn’t look cheap or unintentionally funny. The creatures in this movie are cool they still are decades and new special effects techniques later. 

There are some clunky bits. The villain is so obviously the bad guy but no one notices for a good part of the film. The heroes also have use of a Genie that could have cut this film in ½ if they just asked him to help a little more. None of this really matters because these plot holes lead to Sinbad fighting a skeleton! A fight between a cyclops and one of the best dragons on film! The plot is just a medium to show off the monsters and that is more than fine. The Bernard Herman score helped bring the action to life and will stick in your head.

This film is rightly credited for inspiring a whole film genre that was done well almost exclusively by Harryhausen and Schneer for the next few decades.  Kerwin Mathews worked with them again, but not on the following Sinbad films, he might have been considered too old as they were made over a decade later but he is a treat to watch and sells the effects scenes like no one who followed him. 

Note: The Sinbad movies were without a doubt a product of their time and I am well aware of that. Women’s roles weren’t very much more than damsels in distress, though all of the main women showed streaks of independence and were crucial to the story. The cast in all the films is almost completely white with rare exception despite being set, in effect, in the Middle East and no one looks like they are Middle Eastern in any way. It’s pretty obvious none of these problems are malicious in any way, just things not thought about in movie making of the time and I could see this trilogy being remade as a streaming series with better plotting in the same storylines with actors that match the locals better and maybe all three strung into one three season storyline with the same Sinbad and  and princess/love interest having more equal roles with modern effects that pay homage to Harryhaussen’s aesthetics. Netflix, Apple TV, whatever I am waiting for your call to develop this idea and bring this character back to modern day thrill seekers! 

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